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One of the first things the Harper government did after the 2006 election was cut funding for government funded agencies [PDF] that advocated for women and disenfranchised groups.

A partial list:

  • They eliminated the Court Challenges Program
  • They cut the budget for Status of Women Canada
  • They took the word ‘equality’ out of Status of Women’s mandate
  • They eliminated the First Nations and Inuit tobacco control strategy
  • $55 million cut from youth employment programs
  • $17 million cut from adult learning, literacy and essential skills programs were cut

The money saved was insignificant and wouldn’t even begin to pay for the corporate tax cuts they had planned.

The tories cut these agencies for ideological reasons. “The government shouldn’t be in the business of lobbying itself,” was a refrain often heard on right wing blogs and radio talk shows.

Apparently, only the government gets to spend large amounts of tax revenue trying to shape the opinions of its population.

To Stephen Harper’s conservatives, the only citizen interactions that matter are over a cash register. The public’s role in the political process is to silently watch the ads, answer the occasional phone call from a polling firm, and put a mark in the right box – and we do mean right – come election day.

Meaningful democracy requires meaningful participation from everyone - not just the monied ones - and that requires government support.

During this campaign, ask candidates who come to your door what they would do to restore funding for the programs the conservatives have cut.

For more, see the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality